If you are serious about landing a job before the end of the school year here is some advice. As always, you should be working with Career Services as they are the experts in this. Consider anything I say here as additional advice above and beyond what Career Services has already told you.
Take some time to see what’s out there. What studios’ work do you admire? What kind of jobs are they typically hiring for? Do you want to work in a big studio or a small one? Do you want to specialize or be a generalist? Where (geographically) do you want to work? If you want to work in a particular location look up the local IGDA chapter. Many list member studios with links. You may turn up some previously unknown gem!
Once you’ve answered some of these questions identify a list of studios which would constitute your “wishlist”.
At the same time make sure you have a portfolio site. Put a wide range of projects on the site along with short samples of code that help illustrate something special you are doing on each project. Mix in school projects with your own personal ones. Any code you make available, make sure it is clean and concise. No one will want to dig through lots of code and a good consistent coding style will make your code much more impressive. Readability is everything with code samples. Videos and screen shots are nice but make sure they relate to the coding not on the game in general.
Oh yeah, you need a professional Resume – Career Services again!
Do you know anyone that works for one of these studios? Find out where recent alumni are working and use them aggressively. Alumni may be your greatest allies in getting the job you really want. Ask professors if they know anyone at one of these studios. When asking professors for personal contacts make sure that you have already done your homework on the studio in question. This is where those years of cultivating good relations with your professors will really pay off.
Career services can really help with this one. There are many books on how to prepare for technical interviews and someone at Career Services will be able to point you towards a few. Make sure you have done as much homework as possible on the studio, what they do and the position available. Make sure the interviewer feels like you have prepared for them. They don’t want to feel like a number any more than you do.
Always be truthful in interviews. If you feel like you don’t know the answer to a question, ask for clarification. It may be that you know the concept but know it by a different name.
Don’t ask or answer questions about salary expectations during phone or early rounds of interviews. If you’ve done your homework you should have a fair idea of what you can expect to make and what they can afford to pay and these conversations can wait for later after you’ve got them hooked!
Some studios rely heavily on programming tests, other do not. As an entry level programmer you are more likely to be required to take a test. There are books on how to do well on programming tests and Career Se5rvices can point your towards them.
One important thing to note is that most of these tests are geared towards Computer Science majors so you are likely to see questions from Data Structures and Algorithms and similar “CSey” subjects. Most will expect you to have a strong handle on 3D math even if you are not applying for a Graphics Programming position. Review your 3D math!
Reach out to alumni and ask them about the tests they have taken. Many of these questions circulate around many studios so you may find a question you’ve heard already!
Ideally you will have more than one offer at once. If you can picture yourself working for either company then go for the one with the more interesting position over one paying the most money. The real money is to be made after you have proven yourself so make sure you are considering a studio which will allow you to grow in ways you want to. Don’t forget when thinking about money that Boston or San Francisco are much more expensive places to live then Madison, Wisconsin. They publish comparative cost-of-living data on the internet.
It’s also important to remember that you are not signing up for your entire lifetime. You will change jobs many times in your career, just make sure that each job is taking you closer to what you really want to do in a place you really want to be. Do plan on staying for at least 2 years in your first job but just be sure you will be moving in a direction you want to go.
Have a good life!
Remember that you work and career are very important but they are only part of being a happy person. Make sure that they enhance your happiness, not take away from it. Keep learning, keep communicating, keep striving and it will all work out great.
Don’t forget to payback to the next round of Seniors once you’ve found your dream job. They will really appreciate it! Good luck.
GameDevMap is a very useful resource for job searching geographically.